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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 30

 

 

Verses 1-33

Proverbs 30:1. The words of Agur. The style of this book seems to be much older than that of Solomon. Its simplicity very well agrees with the times of the patriarchs, or when the judges presided. He confesses his ignorance of navigation.—Ithiel, God with me; and Ucal, the mighty one, seem to have been either friends or pupils of Agur. But too many critics play and trifle with the import of their names. Thousands in Israel also put the name of God to the beginning, and sometimes to the termination of a child’s name, as Eldad, Elkanab, Amniel, Zabdiel, Uzziel, &c. Hezekiah’s scribes seem to have thought that this piece, and Lemuel’s, had better be added to the Proverbs than formed into a separate book.

Proverbs 30:2. Surely I am more brutish than any man. Agur who speaks of God in exalted language, does not appear to have been trained to the study of wisdom. Perhaps he could not write, or was so humble as to think nothing of his wisdom worthy of a manuscript; and therefore, impressed with grateful recollections of his worth, his two friends wrote these fragments of his ministry. He begins by avowing his ignorance, neglect of learning, and want of knowledge of the Holy One. Hence we learn that Agur was truly wise; he knew his own heart, his brutishness by nature, and his want of wisdom and acquaintance with God. Here divine wisdom and genuine piety always begin.

Proverbs 30:4. Who hath ascended up into heaven. This holy man knew much, by the avowal that he knew nothing, compared with the grandeur of God. The prophet Isaiah, great in eloquence and wisdom, speaks of God with the same self-abasement as Agur does: Isaiah 40:17.—What is his son’s name, as in Psalms 2:7, the Messiah. The Chaldaic reads as the Hebrew. This is a most remarkable expression. It shows that Agur was acquainted with the Judge of all the earth, who conversed with Abraham. Genesis 17. He knew that there was from eternity a sociality in the Godhead, in the person of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit; but he knew it not distinctly. The Messiah was concealed in the bosom of the Father. Proverbs 8:22. John 1:18. The perfect discoveries of a Trinity, and of human redemption, were mysteries hid in ages past. The Messiah created the world, and holdeth the winds in his fists. His names and perfections can no more be told than the names and perfections of the Father. Adorable mystery, unfathomable in depth, but sanctifying in effect. Oh may we, all brutish and ignorant by nature, ever be pupils in so divine a school; for the whole happiness of angels and men consists in tracing the wisdom, power, and love of God, as unfolded in creation, providence and redemption.

Proverbs 30:8. Give me neither poverty nor riches. We have here the prayer of a sage, who asks mediocrity of condition; and the philosophy of all nations has acquiesced in the justness of this sentiment. All enlightened men must be aware of the calamities of greatness, and of the temptations attendant on wealth, luxury, and honour. And shrinking, on the other hand, at poverty and want, they have given the largest share of happiness to the middle rank of society. But this, after all, is but philosophy; for the poor man, undisturbed with the pride of knowledge, sings in his cottage as the thrush in the copse; the middle ranks are by no means contented with their lot, but are daily pressing towards wealth and dignity; while the great revolt at the idea of humiliation. Be that as it may, Agur’s prayer is so popular that we have extant in the English tongue more than a hundred printed sermons on this text, which sufficiently unfold a clergyman’s wish. Agur however, rectified his wish by piety and submission.—Feed me with food convenient for me. It is the glory and perfection of christianity to resemble Christ, who said in the hour of anguish, Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt. St. Paul also said, I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I know how to be abased and how to abound; to be full, and to be hungry. Happy is that man who alike fears the wanton insolence we see in the rich, and the continual murmuring among the ungrateful poor.

Proverbs 30:10. Accuse not a servant unto his master. This wise man cautions us against meddling with other families in accusing domestics, for there is no man which may not do us harm, nor of whom we may not have need.

Proverbs 30:11. There is a generation that curseth their father. He divides the wicked into four classes. First, those who are ungrateful, and blasphemous to their parents. These, by war or wickedness, shall mostly come to an untimely death: Proverbs 30:17. Blessings flow from fathers to children; and when a son returns them with a curse, it is the worst of crimes. Secondly, those who are pure in their own eyes. Being proud and ignorant, they guard the outward walk, but cherish the foulest evils of the heart. Hence there is little hope of doing them good. The third and fourth are the haughty and the cruel, who scorn and oppress the poor. They are far from humanity, and therefore far from God, who will pay them back the measure they mete.

Proverbs 30:18. There be—four things which I know not.

(1) The way of the eagle, which at an immense distance seeks and pursues his prey, and shapes his course through the trackless air with certainty and precision.

(2) How a serpent could without feet reach the high rock.

(3) How a ship could be managed at sea. The art of navigation is admirable, and especially so to the ancients. The adduction of this art is a mark of the high antiquity of the age when Agur lived.

(4) How a learned seducer could prevail on a woman to surrender her virtue, which should be dearer than life itself; and how, after seduction, she can become such a mystery of iniquity as the harlot and adulteress often prove.

Proverbs 30:21. For three things the earth is disquited, and for four which it cannot bear. He marked four grievances which were insupportable. A servant suddenly raised to power: here nature goes from one excess to another, and tyranny in him is intolerable. A fool full of meat and wine. An ignorant, talkative, immodest woman when she gets honoured with the nuptial tie: and an old maid who has lived with a matron till she is adopted for her heir.

Proverbs 30:24. There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise. He teaches us wisdom by four obscure insects. The ant in providing for winter, the coney who selects a safe and dry situation for her house, the instinct of the locust, and the industry of the spider.

Proverbs 30:29. Four things are comely in going. The lion in battle, the greyhound for swiftness in his course, the he-goat on the hills, leaping from rock to rock; and leaving danger far behind; and a king, a monarch, against whom all revolters must forfeit their life.—Thus the mind disposed to learn wisdom from the simple study of nature, has the volume ever open, where the manifold wisdom of God appears in all its strong characters.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/proverbs-30.html. 1835.

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